100 in 100: Jackson County’s Cetera DeGraffenreid, dynamic point guard

The 5-foot-5 point guard dominated at Smoky Mountain High School before having a standout career at UNC

Sylva's Cetera DeGraffenreid was a standout point guard for the Tar Heels. (Jim R. Bounds / AP Photo)

North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.

Jackson County

Cetera DeGraffenreid

Small in stature, even by women’s basketball standards, 5-foot‑5 Cetera DeGraffenreid had a knack for putting up big numbers on the stat sheet at every level she played.

She once scored 60 points in a middle school game, then rang up 45 points in the first varsity game she played as a freshman at Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva. She averaged 28 points per game — along with 7.5 steals, 6.3 assists and 6.1 assists — as a senior on her way to winning Gatorade North Carolina Player of the Year honors in 2007 and becoming a McDonald’s All-American.

She scored 42 points in her final high school game, setting a state championship game record while leading her team to the 2A title victory against Graham to finish her prep career with 3,081 points — the second-most in NCHSAA women’s history.

Asked at the time how she manages to score so many points, DeGraffenreid told The Associated Press that “just playing the game for many years, I guess it comes naturally.”

Smoky Mountain High School’s Cetera DeGraffenreid was North Carolina’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2007. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

Her success carried over into college at North Carolina, where in 2008 she earned ACC All-Freshman honors while helping the Tar Heels advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight. She followed that up by finishing among the top 10 in the conference in four statistical categories, including having the ACC’s best assist-to-turnover ratio. As a senior, she was a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award as the top point guard in women’s college basketball.

In four seasons in Chapel Hill, DeGraffenreid was picked to an All-ACC team three times, helped UNC to four NCAA Tournament appearances and more made free throws (544) than anyone in school history. And, oh yes, she also scored a lot of points — 1,563 of them to be exact. She also ranks third on UNC’s career list in assists with 589 and steals with 371 while also placing among the top 10 with a free-throw percentage of .756.

After graduation, DeGraffenreid played professionally in Israel before going into coaching. She is currently an assistant at UNC Greensboro.